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Reviews in this issue:
- King’s X – Ogre Tones
- Dug Pinnick – Emotional Animal
- Kurgan's Bane - Camouflaged In Static
- Nil - Nil Nouve Sub Sole
- Magic Pie - Motions Of Desire
- Circlus - A Lick On The Tip Of An Envelope Yet To Be Sent
- Electric Tiger - Dian Hu
King’s X – Ogre Tones
Tracklist: Alone (2:57), Stay (2:23); Hurricane (3:31), Fly (2:43); If (2:58), Bebop (4:00), Honesty (2:42), Open My Eyes (4:03), Freedom (3:21), Get Away (3:25), Sooner Or Later (7:00), Mudd (4:41), Bam (2:43)
It seems unlikely now, but there was a time, in the late 80’s, when King’s X were seen as the ‘next big thing’ in hard rock circles. Their (still classic) debut offering, Out Of The Silent Planet, saw the power trio of Doug Pinnick (bass/ vocals), Ty Tabor (guitars/ vocals) and Jerry Gaskill (drums/ vocals) amalgamating sounds from hard rock, blues, psychedelia, prog, funk and pop into a hard-hitting, cohesive whole in a way that few bands of the time were even attempting.
The band produced a further series of albums (Gretchen Goes to Nebraska, Faith Hope Love and King’s X) which saw their media profile and commercial appeal continue to grow apace, and remain classics in the eyes of many of the band’s fans. However, 94’s grunge influenced Dogman saw the band beginning to dip from critical favour, and it was little surprise when Atlantic dropped the band after 96’s pretty uninspired Ear Candy offering. Since then, the band have regularly released an album every year or two, to little fanfare from the wider world – the band have basically become something of a cult. The proliferation of solo albums and offshoot projects (such as Tabor’s Jelly Jam) has also indicated that maybe the band’s heart hasn’t really been in it anymore. However, signing to the Inside Out label has clearly given King’s X something of a new lease of life, and Ogre Tones appears to find the band with a renewed focus and some much-needed fire in their bellies.
For the first time in a while the band worked with an outside producer – Michael Wagener, known in hard rock circles for his work with acts such as Alice Cooper, Extreme and Dokken. Wagener gives the band a predictably big, stadium-ready sound which actually suits a lot of the material down to the ground.
In contrast to some of their recent releases, in song writing terms the band have really stripped things back to basics, with the majority of the songs in the two to three minute range. Catchy hooks abound from the off – Alone has a thick, catchy lead riff and a big anthemic chorus, complete with typically fine three-part vocal harmonies. Pinnick brings some of the heavier grooves from his solo work to bear both on this track and on the somewhat a-typical Bebop – this track features a rather eccentric verse section which mixes some Hendrix-style guitar work with an almost scat-like vocal delivery from Pinnick, before exploding in a big rock’n’roll chorus, where Pinnick (much to his delight I’m sure) gets to roar out the classic ‘wap-bap-aloola-la-big-bam-boo!’ line! Both Stay and If are melodic, AOR-tinged pop-rock; Fly has a bluesy edge, whilst Hurricane sees the pace taken down and the band settling into a laid-back, almost 12-bar-blues style groove. The mid-paced grooves of Freedom feature some rather acerbic lyrics (the title being somewhat ironic I guess!), and Honesty is a mostly acoustic ballad with the harmony vocals again of the highest order.
The last third of the album ushers in some more unusual material, which takes longer to fully appreciate. Get Away is a rather oft-kilter ballad, which features some rather preachy lyrics, but does have some appeal, whilst Sooner Or Later is a slow-burner, with some pleasing, spaced-out grooves and a very lengthy, appropriately psychedelic guitar solo from Tabor. Mudd has some dense riffs and another strong chorus, whilst the final ‘track’ is the throwaway Bam, featuring a heavily accented male voice wittering on about nothing in particular over a backdrop of feedback and sound effects – perhaps not the best way to end the album.
One silly throw-away track isn’t, however, enough to ruin the good work that’s gone on in the 45 minutes proceeding it, and overall this is a satisfyingly record full of the strong melodies and hooks with which the band made their name all those years ago. Ogre Tones seems to have been generating more buzz about the band than I remember for a long while, and sees them with a real chance of re-connecting with some of their lapsed fan-base.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Dug Pinnick – Emotional Animal
Tracklist: Crashing (3:07), Beautiful (3:25), Change (3:13), Noon (5:32), Missing (3:34), Equal Rights (3:31), Zepp (4:56), Haven’t Been Here Before (2:33), Bite (3:21), Keep Up (2:49), Are You Gonna Come (5:33), Wrong (1:00), Freak The Funk Out (5:20), Mr Hateyourself (1:46)
Dug Pinnick is best known as one part of the long-running Texan trio King’s X. He has in fact put out a couple of solo albums previously under the name Poundhound, but this is the first one issued under his own name (or at least a derivation of it – I’ve no idea why he’s dropped the ‘o’ from ‘Doug’!)
In contrast to King’s X’s latest, Ogre Tones, which is slickly produced and overflowing with strong melodies, Emotional Animal is a far rawer effort. Pinnick plays everything himself bar drums (for which he’s kept it in the King’s X family by using Jerry Gaskill’s son Joey), and is also responsible for all recording duties. The guitars are fuzzy and down-tuned, the bass rumbles along and the drums often sound like someone hitting saucepan lids – a very ‘garage’-y feel in other words. Whilst Pinnick’s familiar, soulful vocals are bound to tie anything he releases to King’s X, there are only a few tracks which you could see sitting comfortably on one of their albums, and even here the initial lack of obvious melodies and three-part harmonies renders them far less instantly accessible. Its not that the likes of Crashing, Beautiful and Keep Up aren’t good songs, they just require a lot more work on the part of the listener.
Elsewhere Pinnick stretches out into forms which simply wouldn’t sound quite right on a King’s X album – Equal Rights is a country rocker with plenty of ‘yee-haws!’, Noon a repetitive but hypnotic slow, bluesy number; Missing fuses emo-style modern rock with a more ‘classic’ guitar sound, whilst Wrong is a far-too-brief gospel number, which you feel Pinnick should have extended out a little. Some of the experimentation doesn’t work so well – Zepp is an obvious paen to the guitar work of Jimmy Page, but apart from some good licks hasn’t much to offer, whilst the five-plus minutes of Freak The Funk Out is just an endlessly repeated groove overlaid with weird sound effects, and is pretty pointless – but in the end I think I’d rather an experimental album with a few misfires than one which simply repeated what you could hear on a King’s X album.
Overall then, whilst this does have a very rough and ready feel to it which won’t be for all, it’s a pretty good release which is obviously going to be of most interest to die-hard King’s X fans; the more casual fan would be advised to listen to the superior Ogre Tones first.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
Kurgan's Bane - Camouflaged In Static
Tracklist: I'm Alive (4:24), Override (4:35), Mirage (9:06), Surface (4:54), Asstro (3:47), Time Has Come (6:47), Signal To Noise (6:30), The Spectator (7:59), Regret (4:20), Martyr (7:53)
Kurgan's Bane is a Baltimore-based hard-rock band consisting of singer Lisa Francis, brothers Pete and Jeff Laramee on guitar and drums respectively, and bassist Luis Nasser. They play a very interesting breed of pop-flavoured hard rock with a progressive aftertaste. Their influences range from Alice Cooper, '70s hard rock bands (Lisa), Van Halen, and the '80s guitar movement (Pete) to Yes, Marillion (Jeff), Pink Floyd, and Rush (Luis). There are moments very reminiscent of Rush (especially during the instrumental breaks), as well as a recurring feel that reminds me a lot of Dream Theater's first album When Dream And Day Unite. Other moments hearken back to the '80s, when guitars were allowed to be the centre of songs. Finding good analogies for these guys is difficult, both because of the range of their influences and because they don't really sound like anyone else...reminiscent of styles others have touched on, yes, but they bring it together in an original way.
Camouflaged In Static opens with I'm Alive, a catchy, bouncy song that fairly sets the mood for the album and lets the listener know what's to come. The first few seconds start with Pete playing a clean guitar rhythm a la Marillion, soon joined by Luis sounding very much like Chris Squire. Lisa makes her intro like an angel in a room full of crystal before diving into her more typical voice, which reminds me of Joan Jett for some reason (perhaps my lack of experience with pre-90s female-driven hard rock bands). From the beginning Jeff shows his ability to add to a song tastefully without trying to dominate it, which most listeners will certainly appreciate throughout this album. As the song gets going it sets into a nice, fun '80s hard rock feel, not so different from Van Halen really.
The second track, Override, starts with one of the few keyboard moments on this album, then turns into something Steve Vai might have recorded during one of his more radio-friendly moments. As throughout the album, the drums (and bass, except during a few Geddy Lee/Chris Squire moments) stay in the background, letting the emphasis fall on Lisa's voice and Pete's guitar. The rather poppy feel of this album betrays the lyrics, which are quite deep and often dark. Not deep and dark in a way that will ruin the album, mind you, but in the way that will make one think while listening, a la Pain of Salvation, Threshold, et. al.
The next song (and longest on the album), Mirage, opens with a bass lick straight out of Rush, soon complimented by cymbals and a clean guitar playing harmonics, then breaking into a groove blending the best moments Permanent Waves, Moving Pictures, and Vapor Trails into one of the more enjoyable moments on the album. The song moves into a section which reminds me of Dream Theater's Images and Words, specifically parts of Under a Glass Moon. Pete proves he's got a decent knowledge of the guitar, and his upcoming solos are very melodic and fluid. They have a definite '80s flavour, but they flow beautifully. With a song this long it's inevitable that anyone with the progressive mindset is going to play around with it, and Kurgan's Bane doesn't disappoint. Around the 4:30 mark they break into an extended instrumental break sounding like the evil love child of Metropolis Part 1 and Roundabout. This lasts about three minutes, after which they break back into the Rush groove and bring in some beautifully layered vocals to round out the song quite nicely.
Speaking of Metropolis, the next song Surface opens with a bass drum/sleighbells beat that is almost certainly a significant nod. Although this song doesn't really present anything new, it continues in the vein of the previous songs without sounding like a replica. Asstro, a perhaps juvenile title for a less than juvenile instrumental, follows. This song showcases what Kurgan's Bane is all about: little bits and pieces of other bands work their way into the mix, but it's distinctly not just a copy. It comes off sounding like a handful of the greatest progressive guitarists trading solos on stage over an elegantly simple backdrop. That backdrop merges straight into Time Has Come, which brings me to one of the few complaints I have about this album: the choruses are indistinguishable from the verses. The lack of vocal harmony on this album, and the energy of the band (which in itself isn't a bad thing), tend to define the song structure so ! that one doesn't know exactly where one is within any given song. It doesn't ruin the songs, and it's not to say that there isn't diversity throughout each song, but it may not appeal to listeners who are fond of distinct and recognizable song segments. Time Has Come alternates between softer, low-key moments and bouncy, heavier moments with a great groove to headbang to, providing a mix and balance that rather sums up the way Kurgan's Bane play, keeping the music both interesting and varied.
Signal To Noise stays with the late '80s/early '90s feel, offering nothing new or earth-shattering but putting a nice spin on the sound the band has developed. Pete's fluid guitar makes this song enjoyable, as do Lisa's vocals couples with the almost Fear Factory-esque lyrics (e.g. "X-rays from your television, phosphorescent lies/thirty frames per second flashing past your beady eyes"). The Spectator opens with a drum and bass groove which turns into an upbeat guitar-rock song. Again, nothing new, although the bass work keeps this track interesting and the instrumental section in the middle showcases some of the best (or most technically intricate, at any rate) guitar playing on the album.
Regret picks up where The Spectator leaves off, a bit heavier but continuing the trend. This song is fairly straightforward, and nothing spectacular stands out. Martyr, however, opens with some intricate drumming (a la Mike Portnoy more than Neil Peart), then moves on to a fairly complex beat before diving into the heart of the song. The main groove in this song reminds me faintly of Dream Theater's Fatal Tragedy, for some reason. Martyr also features some of the few vocal harmonies on the album, which adds a nice touch to a well-rounded closer.
I must be honest: Camouflaged In Static isn't for everyone. Fans of Rush (both the early days and the later material), early Dream Theater, and similar bands will most likely enjoy the music and appreciate the approach, but the "mainstream" and '80s influences may turn off other listeners. Kurgan's Bane love what they're doing, and the songs stand well on their own, but in their originality the band has developed a "formula" which they seem to replicate on almost all the songs; by the end of the disc the formula does get a bit monotonous. The recording quality isn't the greatest, although it's not atrocious...it fits the style well, but again may turn off those who prefer tighter, crisper, cleaner recording. Had this album been released 15 years ago it would have been positively brilliant; now, it is enjoyable, it's a nice spin on mixing the styles of their influences, but it's not cutting-edge or breathtaking.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Nil - Nil Nouve Sub Sole
Tracklist: Le Gardien (20:11), Linceul (3:58), Deregeneration (14:32), 198 (8:40), Abandon (8:09), Derives (6:04)
When I first began reviewing for DPRP two and a half years ago, my first batch of CD’s included Quarante Jours... by Nil. I was completely blown away, and awarded them a massive 9 out of 10 (something which has proved to be a rarity for me, despite receiving some great CDs to review). Now, I have come to regret that marking a little, not because I have gone off the CD (far from it - it’s still a favourite of mine even now), but because I now have to rate their follow-up disc. Not wanting to award a 10 out of 10 (well, nothing is ever really quite perfect, you know), I’m only left with a measly half mark to convey the improvement this disc represents in the Nil sound.
And let me tell you, improvement there most certainly is! The band remains essentially the same, except for the elevation of Roselyne Berthet from Guest Singer to Full Band Member, giving her a larger role to play (as I wished in my review of the last album, and Boy!, does she live up to expectations! Her performance is outstanding!), but still leaving room for many long instrumental passages. This time out, there are no guests (last time the band were augmented by cellos, saxes etc) but never mind, the band are really on fire this time and their high energy performance should have you on the edge of your seat.
Compositionally, Nil Nove Sub Sole is tighter, more streamlined than its predecessor and is all the better for it. The band mesh together as an incredibly tight unit. There are still plenty of shifts in dynamics, with exquisite, delicate passages and acoustic textures rubbing shoulders with brutal riffs and complex, intricate instrumental interplay, but there is not a moment wasted throughout the whole, exciting, absorbing, thrilling hour of music on the disc.
Not since In The Court Of The Crimson King all those many years ago has a band come so close to getting the perfect balance of light and shade, melody and menace, finesse and fury as Nil do here. Indeed King Crimson are the best comparison for Nil, though I don’t mean to imply that they are any kind of copycat band – Nil have a very original approach to intense progressive rock and are clearly one of the very best bands around. I couldn’t begin to pick out highlights from this disc – it’s stunning from start to finish – but either of the two long tracks - Le Gardien and Deregeneration - would make a great introduction to the band, and the short Linceul is a good example of the band’s more restrained and moody side, with a sombre, haunting vocal from Roselyne.
With the year quickly disappearing, I have no doubt that I am unlikely to come across a better album in 2005. I strongly recommend this superb CD to all those who enjoy music which combines darker textures with symphonic sheen, fragile melodies with fierce and forceful riffs, sublime female vocals and frenetic percussion.
Conclusion: 9.5 out of 10
Magic Pie - Motions Of Desire
Tracklist: Change (20:04), Motions Of Desire (6:34), Full Circle Poetry (14:13), Without Knowing Why (7:55), Illusions & Reality Part 1 (10:14), Illusions & Reality Part 3 - Final Breath (4:46), Illusions & Reality Part 4 - Reprise (3:09), Dream Visions (7:47)
I have to admit that I'm starting to believe that the centre of progressive rock in the world is nowadays located in Scandinavia as so many great new progressive bands emerge from there. Scandinavian musicians must have some progressive blood flowing through their veins, I can't explain it otherwise. This time it's Norway that treats the World with a great new progressive rock band called Magic Pie.
The band started to take shape around 2002 and now consists of six members from Moss, a city near Oslo: Kim Stenberg on guitars, Gilbert Marshall on keyboards and vocals, Allan Olsen and Eirik Hanssen on lead vocals, Lars Petter Holstad on bass and Jan Torkild Johannessen on drums.
The general sound of Motions Of Desire can't be called totally new and unique because the influences of Spock's Beard, The Flower Kings, Deep Purple, to mention the most prominent ones, can be heard. So the starting point of Magic Pie's music is pretty obvious. But the bands they were influenced by can certainly be called good role models, so if executed properly and with a good touch of originality such a concept could result in a good production of its own and that's exactly what happened with this album. Although at some points it almost sounds like the above mentioned bands have a cameo appearance on this CD (a-capella singing like Spock's Beard, typical full Flower Kings sound, Deep Purple like organ etc) the final product is still something different and absolutely interesting to hear in the end. You could say that Magic Pie found a striking way to integrate elements of several other bands and moulded them into an innovative new sound of its own. The album features enough quality and originality to hold a big promise for more and truly stunning music in the future. But this debut album is already great on its own, so let's see what this album is all about:
Motions Of Desire directly kicks off with a sparkling and sincerely lengthy track called Change. It sounds a bit like it consists of a few songs moulded together, but in a very craftful way with a powerful start, a grasping refrain after which the song drifts in all kind of directions to end with the refrain of the beginning again. The variation and total style changes make this song burst out of your speakers and makes it not so easy to describe it; I suggest you just download it and make up your own mind.
With Motions Of Desire the tone is set for the whole album that displays a huge variety of musical extravaganza and capabilities in the shape of a sort of big musical show-piece. Although this lengthy song logically features the most changes and variations in tunes, the rest of the album also treats you to a highly varied display of skilfully crafted prog songs. The singing, to my taste often the weak element of a prog album, is really pleasant here, mostly because of the frequent use of simultaneously singing by the two lead vocalists. Their combined voices create a great full and warm sound, but also separately they can produce all kinds of powerful, bombastic, but also mellow vocals. It seems like every song features a different kind of vocals as if sung by a different singer, again a great display of variety and creativity.
To be honest I can't say this album has really one weak moment, from start to finish your ears are treated to some spectacular variation of sounds; this album won't bore you easily! The quality level is constantly high, no obligatory ballad or lack of variation the whole album through. But this also means no song really stands out from the rest, which might be the only significant example of lack of variation that you might find on Motions Of Desire.
Their full sound is great, very well mixed, thus resulting in a production where everything seems to be right in its place and without any superfluous or missing elements. Magic Pie have truly managed to deliver a brilliant debut album and I just kept my score a bit low to keep room to grade their future albums even higher!
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
A Lick On The Tip Of An Envelope Yet To Be Sent
Tracklist: Miri It Is (2:36), My Body Is Made of Sunlight (3:54), The Scarecrow (4:56), Orpheus (3:07), We Are Long Lost (5:34), Swallow (3:59), The Aphid (5:19), Candlelight (3:28), Power to the Pixies (6:14)
Progressive rock, as a genre, certainly contains a large collection of sub-categories. I’ve read very tenable arguments for the inclusion of such musically diverse acts as Queensrychë, Roy Harper, The Moody Blues, Bjork, Hawkwind, Return to Forever, and The Incredible String Band under the prog-rock umbrella: that’s a multifarious genre, indeed. Circulus deservedly receives a place within the progressive rock milieu for a few reasons. First, I tend to regard a band that utilizes indigenous instrumentation and song motifs (i.e., “folk” music), and that blends both with elements of rock-and-roll, as a progressive rock band, in the mould of, say, Gryphon, The Amazing Blondel, Renaiisance, late-‘70s Jethro Tull, etc. Second, I tend to regard any band that utilizes mythological or archetypal imagery in its lyrics, as well as existentialist rather than purely romantic symbology, as a progressive rock band, if the musical arrangements fit into the general oeuvre. There’s a long history of this sort of songcraft in the annals of progressive rock, and Circulus leans heavily toward the psychedelic whimsy of a Syd Barrett or nascent Marc Bolan. Lastly, if the complexity of the musicianship and composition is noteworthy and steers clear of typical radio-friendly pop-hit minimalism, then I will generally regard the music as a form of progressive rock.
On its debut release, A Lick On The Tip Of An Envelope Yet To Be Sent, Circulus manifests all three qualifiers, and very well, in my opinion. If you want to call it progressive folk rock, I’ll agree, but, rubric be damned, it’s really just smart, entertaining, accomplished music.
I don’t know very much about Circulus. The liner notes say the band is “psychedelic, open-minded, and idealistic”. The Web site says, “Meanwhile imagine what it would be like if you were to accidentally slip into a medieval future when you thought it was 1972. You would probably feel as lost as we do, but there is no turning back.” That’s Circulus, in sum.
I’m not sure about how many people play in the band, but it seems to include Will Summers, Michael Tyack, Ollie Parfitt, and Lo Polidoro. (Jade’s Marian [Marianne] Segal sings one of her own tunes on A Lick… as well, with the band in support.) The CD insert photo shows a highly medieval-looking troupe of ten persons and one dog, and if you can imagine Robin Williamson and Mike Heron joining forces with Minstrel In The Gallery-era members of Tull’s stage show, you might get it. Apparently Circulus plays gigs in the London area, offering its “ethereal power in a tangible form”. High stuff.
Anyway, the music is fantastic. My personal favourite is The Scarecrow, a catchy, woodwind-driven saga of a poor scarecrow that fails to reach the cornfield before sunrise to thwart the hungry crows, instead catching fire from candlelight and “burning out before [his] time”. The lyrics are first rate and the track swings with a near jam-band looseness. Great one.
I can also laud both Miri It Is and My Body Is Made of Sunlight. The first tune is a classic Celtic reel complete with madrigal vocals (male and female). But it really hits stride in the middle section where the bass, drums, and keyboards kick in a groove, with the Celtic instrumentation cake-frosted over the top. It’s pretty cool and not too far from some of Gentle Giant’s experimentation (albeit with a bit more straightforward delivery). My Body Is Made Of Sunlight is lysergic folk rock: you can’t get an understanding of holographic existence without having dabbled! The choruses show off a forceful syncopation, not to mention explosively bright accents. (Unfortunately, Miri It Is, The Scarecrow, and My Body Is Made Of Sunlight are tracks 1, 2, and 3 of the CD: Circulus has front-loaded the album with the best material. But I didn’t mind this too much, since all three songs are worthwhile and several of the other tracks are decent.)
Orpheus is a neat little instrumental that features a lilting woodwind melody over a rocking, mildly spacey rhythm (and obviously, this is Orpheus before he has lost Eurydice forever). We Are Long Lost is, fittingly enough, the most plaintiff track on the CD, but it still offers a bouncy chorus that, even if its lyrics aren’t especially encouraging, does incite some head-bobbing. (The song also has the best keyboard solo out of the nine tracks, almost something you might hear on an Alan Parsons album.) I believe that Swallow showcases Marian Segal on lead vocals (she’s only credited on the Web site and the song isn’t cited there by title); it’s a strong track with jangling guitar, infectious refrains, and Tullian (Or is that Jadian?) flute and mandolin. Power to the Pixies (which I can only hope is an intentional play upon John Lennon’s Power to the People) is a tad crazy, in Barrett fashion, a tad ridiculous, and spins with a dervish pace.
There’s a misstep or two on the album (Candlelight is a bit too fey for my taste and The Aphid, a folk-rock-meets-space-rock rave, cum drum solo, is out of place among the other eight songs) but even those tracks are interesting for the continued unusual instrumentation; the clean, tight playing; the intelligent arrangements; and the willingness to experiment.
I have to recommend this CD strongly to progressive rock fans who a) are fond of the folk-rock strain; b) are fond of the acid-whimsy strain; c) are fond of medieval and/or Elizabethan instrumentation married to rock rhythm sections; and d) fans of literate, suggestive lyricism. I don’t think fans of symphonic prog, neo-prog, or some of the harder variants would have any enjoyment from A Lick… but for my money (um…well, not for my money, actually, since I didn’t buy the CD…) this is a very impressive debut by a talented, adventurous, and professional band. I envy the Londoners who have witnessed the “ethereal power” in a live setting!
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Electric Tiger - Dian Hu
Tracklist: Bamboo Forest (9:06), Stalking Pandas (6:52), Lying In Wait (7:13), Pagoda Prowler (3:57), Zapping A Villager (9:12), Iridescent Ideogram (8:14), Ming Vase Illusion (10:28), Crunching Dragon Bones (7:26), Electric Spark In A Dry Forest (8:03)
Early this year we (DPRP) undertook a review of Electric Tiger's 2004 debut release Tanzmusik, and as on that first album, the "line-up" of Red Eyed Coyote (guitars), Woden Thoth (bass/mandolin) and Yahyah (electronic percussion) remains unchanged. The material however, and I remember it distinctly, has changed somewhat with this second release, although primarily in its intensity.
As with their previous release Electric Tiger have offered another brief descriptive term to categorize their music -
"Ideogrammatic symphonic slambient pagoda music",
and the press release adds the following narrative -
"a slambient cacosymphony - somewhat melodic sound explored for its own sake - mental references to the imagination of an Electric Tiger loose in the vastness of China prowling around pagodas stalking pandas and villagers energizing porcelain ware designs".
I am not normally one inclined to include press material within a review, however on this occasion I felt that it offered insight into the author's perspective of their music. This infers that Electric Tiger have put much thought into this hour long release, that is not immediately evident, certainly not to me. Now even within musical genres I dislike, I can normally find certain positives, even if it is just the brevity of the piece, but here I found nothing. The material failed to capture my imagination and certainly did not conjure any of the imagery suggested in the press literature.
As mentioned above there are similarities to be found in their two releases - both are pretty much devoid of any discernable melody, have little in the way of rhythmic content, although certain pulses are created by the instruments and follow an avant-garde freeform journey. But whereas Tanzmusik was extremely intense, almost unbearable to listen to - even in short bursts, Dian Hu is less physically challenging on the ears, taking a distinctly mellower approach.
There is no way I can describe the "music" on Dian Hu, I can only indicate how the tracks are constructed. Multiple layered guitar and bass sections, (processed through a variety of effects pedals/racks), are mixed with the addition of subtle sound effects and electronic percussion. Although it should be noted that the percussion is not used to form any rhythmic drive to the pieces. From here on the creative juices of Electric Tiger kick in allowing these sound collages to meander aimlessly for anything up to almost the eleven minute mark - and to be perfectly honest, I found it nigh on impossible to distinguish the tracks apart.
I would suggest that if you have persevered with this review of Dian Hu and that my less than enthusiastic thoughts have not persuaded you to move on to another offering, then I suggest you follow the link above and visit CD Baby to listen to the audio samples for yourself. The kindest thing I can say about this latest offering from Electric Tiger is that it is certainly an improvement, sonically, from their previous release. I wish I could be more positive towards this release, but I can't. Sorry - not one for me!
Conclusion: 2 out of 10